Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, based on information received as of 19:30hrs, 8 March 2016

The SMM observed an increase in ceasefire violations in Donetsk region compared with the previous day. The situation remained stable in Luhansk. The Mission continued to monitor the withdrawal of weapons. The SMM observed probable unexploded ordnance and explosive remnants of war. It continued to facilitate demining and repair work to essential infrastructure. The Mission reached border crossing points in areas not controlled by the Government in both Luhansk and Donetsk regions, as well as government-controlled border crossing points. The SMM encountered freedom-of-movement restrictions.* It monitored demonstrations in support of Nadiya Savchenko in front of the Russian Embassy in Kyiv and the General Consulate in Lviv.

The SMM observed numerous ceasefire violations in Donetsk region [1], primarily concentrated in three areas. Positioned in “DPR”-controlled Donetsk city in the evening hours of 7 March, the SMM heard 85 undetermined explosions and three bursts of small arms 7-10km south-west of its position and four undetermined explosions 7-10km east. Whilst at the Donetsk railway station (“DPR”-controlled, 6km north-west of Donetsk) during the day on 8 March, the SMM registered 47 undetermined explosions as well as 15 bursts and many single shots of small-arms and heavy-machine-gun fire occurring at locations ranging from 2-10km north, north-east and north-north-east of its position.

Whilst in government-controlled Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk), during the evening of 7 March, the SMM heard 16 explosions assessed as mortar fire (120 and 82mm), 12 impacts of automatic grenade launcher (AGL), 25 bursts of cannon fire from an infantry fighting vehicle (BMP-1, 73mm), 23 bursts assessed as either cannon (BMP-1, 73mm) or anti-tank gun (SPG-9, 73mm) fire, and 66 bursts of heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire, all 2-5km north-east, south-east and south-west of its position.

In Luhansk region, the situation remained relatively calm with a low number of ceasefire violations recorded. On 8 March at 11:38hrs, whilst in “LPR”-controlled Molodizhne (62km west of Luhansk), the SMM heard three undetermined explosions at approximately 10km north of its position. Whilst in “LPR”-controlled Novooleksandrivka (65km west of Luhansk), during a 45-minute period, the SMM heard approximately 150 undetermined explosions, as well as three rounds of heavy-machine-gun and sporadic small-arms fire, occurring at about 10-12km south-west of its position.

In relation to the implementation of the Addendum to the Package of Measures, the SMM revisited a Ukrainian Armed Forces permanent storage site and noted ten mortars (five 2B9 Vasilek, 82mm, and five 2B11 Sani, 120mm) missing; four were missing for the first time.

The SMM continued to monitor the withdrawal of heavy weapons as foreseen in the Minsk Package of Measures. The SMM has yet to receive the full information requested in the 16 October 2015 notification. The SMM revisited locations known to the SMM as heavy weapons holding areas, even though they do not comply with the specific criteria set out for permanent storage sites in the 16 October 2015 notification.

In government-controlled areas in violation of the respective withdrawal lines, the SMM revisited such a location and observed six towed anti-tank guns (MT-12 Rapira, 100mm).

In government-controlled areas beyond respective withdrawal lines, the SMM revisited such locations and observed 36 towed howitzers (18 D-20, 152mm, and 18 2A65 Msta-B, 152mm), 12 towed howitzers (2A36 Giatsint-B, 152mm), four towed anti-tank guns (MT-12 Rapira, 100mm), and 11 self-propelled howitzers (2S3 Akatsiya, 152mm). The SMM also found that one self-propelled howitzer (2S3 Akatsiya, 152mm), six anti-tank guns (MT-12 Rapira, 100mm), one towed howitzer (2A65 Msta-B, 152mm), six mortars (2S12 Sani, 120mm) and six towed howitzer (2A36 Giatsint-B, 152mm) were missing. The SMM visited one such area for the first time and observed five self-propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika, 122 mm).

In “DPR”-controlled areas beyond the respective withdrawal lines, the SMM revisited such locations and observed that eleven towed howitzers (D-30 Lyagushka, 122mm) and nine mortars (120mm) were present. The SMM also noted that five mortars (120mm) and eleven towed howitzer (D-30 Lyagushka, 122mm) were missing.

The SMM also observed the presence of other hardware. In a western area of “LPR”-controlled Luhansk city, the SMM observed a stationary concentration of military-type vehicles composed of approximately 20 Kamaz trucks that appeared new, and two armoured combat vehicles (BRDM).

The SMM continued to facilitate and monitor adherence to the ceasefire to enable repairs to essential infrastructure. In co-ordination with Ukrainian Armed Forces representatives at the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC), the SMM monitored ongoing repairs of the power grid conducted by the electricity company in areas near government-controlled Artemove (42km north-east of Donetsk). The SMM continued to monitor demining through controlled detonations conducted by the Ukrainian Emergency Services and repair works conducted by the same electricity company to power lines in the vicinity of the former Haharina coal mine in a government-controlled area on the western outskirts of “DPR”-controlled Horlivka (39km north-east of Donetsk).

The SMM continued to observe the presence of mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the security zone. Whilst in “DPR”-controlled Debaltseve (58km north-east of Donetsk) the SMM identified a probable UXO in the Festivalnyi district. Approximately 150 metres north-west of the “DPR”-controlled Uspenka (73km south-east of Donetsk) border crossing area, the SMM observed an ammunition box filled with explosive remnants of war (ERW), located in an old ammunition crate. “DPR” members at the border said they did not know how long the box has been there or what was inside it.

The SMM visited checkpoints along the line of contact and observed fewer civilians crossing the contact line in several locations. At a checkpoint near government-controlled Marinka (23km south-west of Donetsk), the SMM observed 215 vehicles, ten busses, and 30 pedestrians queuing to travel toward government-controlled areas. The SMM observed a total of 90 vehicles, two busses, and 25 pedestrians queuing in the other direction. At an “LPR” checkpoint south of government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska bridge (16km north-east of Luhansk) the SMM observed approximately 50 civilians in total going through the checkpoint in both directions over a 45-minute period, noting that there was no waiting time at either the “LPR” or government-controlled checkpoints.

The SMM visited three non-government-controlled border areas. The SMM observed a calm situation at the Uspenka border crossing area, and noticed that vehicular traffic was low, for the second day in a row. The SMM saw ten civilian cars (five Ukrainian and five Russian Federation license plates) and 31 civilian trucks (one “DPR” and 30 Ukrainian license plates) waiting to cross into the Russian Federation. The SMM also visited a pedestrian crossing area in “DPR”-controlled Ulianivske (61km south-east of Donetsk), but the SMM did not observe any pedestrians there. In “LPR”-controlled Sievernyi (50km south-east of Luhansk), the SMM observed 25 civilian cars parked near the border area and six civilians crossing by foot into Ukraine.

The SMM also visited government-controlled border crossing areas, and continued to follow up on reports of cargo trucks with Russian Federation license plates being blocked. At border crossing points in Mamalyha (47km east of Chernivtsi) and Porubne (37km south of Chernivtsi), the SMM observed that Svoboda party activists were no longer present (see SMM Daily Report 29 February 2016). The shift commanders for the Ukrainian Border Guards in both Mamalyha and Porubne said the activists had left a few days earlier from both locations. In Porubne, the SMM observed a queue of 72 trucks, including ten with Russian Federation license plates, waiting to enter Romania. The SMM spoke to the driver of a truck with Russian Federation license plates who said that he had already been waiting for 13 hours, and that it can take as long as two days to clear the border due to rigorous cargo inspection for entering Romania.

The SMM observed a number of public gatherings, including two separate protests in Kyiv and one in Lviv in support of Nadiya Savchenko. In Kyiv, the SMM observed approximately 900 participants (mixed gender, aged 20-60 years) who marched from the Ministry of Defence to the Embassy of the Russian Federation, demanding the release of Ms. Savchenko. Later the SMM observed a van painted in camouflage with the long-disused insignia (since August 2015) of the Azov volunteer battalion. Five individuals in military-style clothing got out of the van and carried car tires to the entrance of the Russian Embassy, stating that this was a “warning action”. There were approximately 30 police officers and 20 National Guard officers at the premises of the embassy. The police were unsuccessful in their measured attempt to physically stop the activists from placing the tires, and they did not intervene further. The event passed peacefully.

In Lviv, the SMM observed a gathering of approximately 300 people (70 per cent men, middle aged and older), who marched to the General Consulate of the Russian Federation holding banners and chanting: “Freedom for Nadiya Savchenko.” The SMM did not observe police during the march. Near the Russian Consulate, the SMM saw nine police officers, and three National Guard officers. The event passed peacefully.

The SMM also observed a number of public gatherings in Kyiv and Lviv on the occasion of International Women’s Day.

The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Kherson, Odessa, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kharkiv, and Dnepropetrovsk.

*Restrictions to SMM’s freedom of movement or other impediments to the fulfilment of its mandate

The SMM is restrained in fulfilling its monitoring functions by restrictions imposed by the parties and security considerations, including mine threats, damaged infrastructure, and the unpredictability of the situation in Donbas. “LPR” members continue to prevent the SMM from monitoring many areas alongside the border in parts of Luhansk region not controlled by the Government, and consistently require that the SMM submit patrol plans in advance.

Denial of access:

  • Armed men stopped the SMM from accessing an abandoned farm at a roadblock between “DPR”-controlled Sakhanka (24km north-east of Mariupol) and Leninske (24km north-east of Mariupol), citing demining in the area.
  • Armed “DPR” members denied the SMM access to the passport control point at the non-government controlled border crossing point in Uspenka. No explanation was given and the SMM subsequently left the area.
  • While at the “LPR”-controlled checkpoint of Stanytsia Luhanska bridge (16km north-east of Luhansk) the “LPR” deputy commander of the checkpoint took photographs of the SMM IDs and requested to make a copy of the SMM patrol plan. The SMM declined and returned to the government-controlled side of the bridge.
  • On 6 March, a Ukrainian Border Guard shift commander prevented the SMM from proceeding to the Kalanchak checkpoint at the administrative boundary line between Kherson and Crimea, citing a change in regulations.

Conditional access:

  • At a checkpoint on the eastern edge of “DPR”-controlled Oktiabr (29km north-east of Mariupol), armed men allowed the SMM to proceed to the village on the condition that the SMM leave the area via the same road, citing the need to verify the presence of all SMM personnel in the vehicles upon departure.

[1] For a complete breakdown of the ceasefire violations, please see the annexed table.

Iuliia Poberezhna
National Media Analyst
OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine
26 Turhenievska Street
01054 Kyiv
Mobile: +380 67 467 75 65

Iryna Gudyma
Senior Press Assistant
OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine
26 Turhenievska Street
01054 Kyiv
Mobile: +38 067 4021716